Saturday, June 09, 2007

Zachary Baker laid to rest

Friends and family recalled Cpl. Zachary Baker as a devoted father, a devout Christian and a gung-ho soldier, not to mention a Boston Red Sox and Arkansas Razorbacks fanatic, at his funeral Friday.

But the description uttered most often of the man called Bubba by his closest friends was “hero.” Baker and four others died on Memorial Day, when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle. The five were part of a rescue team on the way to a helicopter crash north of Baghdad in Iraq. “My brother was the nicest, happiest, smilingest guy you’d ever know,” Baker’s brother Shane Baker of Quitman said. “I was so proud of him. I never thought he’d grow up to be a hero.”

Toward the end of the service, pictures of Baker flashed on a screen above his flag-draped coffin.
Snapshots of a crawling baby were replaced by a blond-headed boy, then a bespectacled adolescent in a Hulk Hogan shirt, a young man in a red graduation cap and gown, then a U. S. Army uniform and finally a grown man with his own infant son.

Baker, 24, served in the 1 st Calvary Division at Fort Hood, Texas. A 2002 graduate of Vilonia High School, Baker joined the Army in 2004. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

On Friday, Brig. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., presented Baker’s mother, Sandra Welcher, and his widow, Christina Baker, with five awards including the Purple Heart. Spoehr also presented the Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Badge and Army Commendation Medal.

“In his last act, he died on a rescue mission,” Spoehr told a capacity crowd attending the funeral at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock.

Spoehr also relayed how Baker’s fellow soldiers described him at a June 5 memorial in Iraq. The soldiers spoke of his perpetual smile, tireless work ethic and love for his family. They also described how Baker greeted every order he got with a: “Hooah, Roger that.”

Baker “was a hero in every sense of the word,” Spoehr said.

Mark Strippling, who led the service, described Baker as a faithful man who started a Bible study group in Iraq and was contemplating becoming a chaplain. He also said Baker was unselfish, volunteering for the Army because he felt it was his duty.

Above all Baker loved his family. But Strippling said he had a strong bond with those he served with: “Wherever he went, he had family.”

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Related Link:
Zachary D. Baker dies 'of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device'